World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 44-7 win over Purdue.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: Purdue mixed up its looks defensively, which seemed to disrupt Nebraska’s ability to establish its ground game. Nothing came easy. The injury to All-America guard Spencer Long didn’t help. So the Huskers attacked through the air early, perhaps more than they’d expected going in. The NU quarterbacks often seemed out of sync with their receivers.
The adjustments: It appeared that the Huskers tried their best to get the running backs out on the edge as quickly as possible after halftime. NU called toss plays out of the shotgun and stretch plays out of the I-formation. Nebraska ended up finding room out there, and it seemed to open the middle of the field a bit, too.
NU star: Ameer Abdullah. It took a little longer than expected to find open space, but the junior finished with 126 yards on 20 carries.
Stat of the game: Nebraska converted 11 of its 21 third-down attempts, scoring two touchdowns on those plays.
Final word: The Huskers basically constructed a new game plan on the fly, so they’ll return home quite satisfied with a rather one-sided result. Even if there were obvious flaws.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska made a strong commitment to defending the pass early, matching the spread looks from Purdue with extra defensive backs. There were several blitzes in the first quarter, just to force freshman quarterback Danny Etling to make quick decisions. Even when NU relied on its front four to pressure Etling, he still made some poor choices.
The adjustments: The Huskers blitzed less after halftime, mostly because the game’s outcome could already be predicted. Etling never settled in. NU’s depth up front seemed to make a difference as the game unfolded. The D-line, as it became less and less concerned about the threat of the ground game, never gave Etling much time to survey the field.
NU star: Randy Gregory. He had two second-half sacks, including one that resulted in a safety. He saw a third wiped out because of a penalty. The sophomore also recovered a fumble.
Stat of the game: Purdue ran just 10 plays in Nebraska territory, resulting in a fumble, two sacks and seven incompletions.
Final word: Confidence can go a long way for a young defense. This group is playing with an edge again. Maintaining that through a challenging November won’t be easy.